Kansas legislators choose to ignore voters’ concerns

We are not secretly a progressive-lefty state. But Kansans are much, much more moderate than our red reputation would suggest. 

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Opinion

October 30, 2023 - 5:55 PM

Photo by Mary Hammel/UNSPLASH

There’s a huge disconnect between the government that Kansans want and the government Kansans get. 

That probably doesn’t sound all that intuitive. After all, Kansans vote for the mostly Republican, mostly conservative governance they get. If they want something different, why haven’t they made different choices? 

I don’t know the answer to that. But the disconnect is still plain to see. 

We know this because the Docking Institute at Fort Hays State University released its annual “Kansas Speaks” survey last week, and it once again tells us that there’s a fairly big gap between voter desires and the leadership offered by Republicans in the Kansas Legislature.

Medicaid, marijuana, education and housing

• The vast majority of Kansans — 69.6%, an astonishing number — support Medicaid expansion. You probably knew that already. But legislative leaders still have their heels dug in on the issue. 

Forty-one states have already accepted federal dollars to extend health coverage to their poorest residents. Shamefully, Kansas remains among the laggards.

• A similarly huge number, 67.2% of Kansans, support legalizing marijuana for use by adults over the age of 21. Our legislators, meanwhile, can’t even bring themselves to legalize cannabis merely for compassionate medical use. Which means that we’re occasionally treated to the sight of a cancer patient being issued criminal citations in his hospital room.

• A whopping 78.8% of respondents said their local high schools “are important or very important to civic life in Kansas.” In Topeka, though, Republicans spend their time conjuring up ways to divert tax dollars away from public education to support home and private schools.

• And Kansans are hugely worried about the lack of affordable housing in the state. 

Nearly 72% say it’s a concern. Sixty percent say the shortage of such shelter is having a negative impact on their communities. And nearly 63% say they would have difficulty buying a home in the place where they live.

What do Kansas Republicans spend their time on? Passing laws to ensure our transgender neighbors can’t use the bathroom or get the driver’s license of their choosing. 

You know: The important stuff.

Why does all of this matter? Because the issues that Kansans say they care about — the health coverage, the pain relief, the ability to have a nice home — is the stuff that makes a real difference in whether or not the state’s residents live well. 

The stuff that Kansas Republicans focus on? Not so much. 

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